like clouds from heaven

Last week when I made marshmallow brownies I got lots of comments from people saying how easy it is to make marshmallows at home so I decided to try it, and boy were they right!  Why hadn’t I tried this sooner?

I’m very glad I read about smitten kitchen’s early experiments making marshmallows and so followed her advice about how sticky the process is and how one should not try to get every last drop of batter out of the bowl at the risk of knitting their fingers and spatula to the bowl, cause otherwise I totally would have done that.  I don’t like to waste food.  It pained me afterwards to have some batter still stuck in the bowl that I had to rinse out with hot water and watch go down the drain but let me tell you, this stuff is stick-y.  No joke.

The batter was light and fluffy and smelled and tasted like marshmallow cream (of course I had to have a sample before the batter set, just to make sure it tasted okay, and it sure did.)

A few hours later I turned the marshmallow block out onto my cutting board and used an oiled pizza slicer to cut up the marshmallows into lovely little blocks.  I strongly recomment putting some confectioner’s sugar down on the cutting board prior to this step.  It was incredibly sticky and cleaning up my cutting board countertop was not the easiest.

Now, I will admit that my marshmallows are not as pretty as City Bakery’s and not quite as tasty but they are pretty darn close.  And since Wisconsin is not so close to 18th St and 5th Ave in NYC, I’ll take it.

Marshmallows (recipe found at www.smittenkitchen.com, adapted from recipe from Gourmet magazine, December 1998)

  • About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Do ahead: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

marshmallow-y goodness

You would think with a title like “marshmallow-y goodness” this post would be about a recipe that revolved around marshmallows, right?  Well in this case, you’d be wrong.  We won’t even get to the marshmallow part for a while, but once we do it will make perfect sense.  Stick with me here folks. 

Last week there were two birthdays that I wanted to bake for and since it was for two separate people and the birthdays were celebrated in two separate places and because you can’t nicely cut a birthday cake in half and take one half to one party and the other half to the other party I opted to simplify things and make cupcakes instead.  Red velvet cupcakes.  I hadn’t made them in quite some time and they sounded good– plus, they’re usually a crowd pleaser so it seemed like a safe bet.

I’ve been on the fence about using food coloring for some time now.  I don’t use it except for red velvet cake and to color icing for Christmas sugar cookies but ever since I overheard a coworker say she made a connection between red dye in foods she’s consumed and her subsequently getting nightmares after consumption I’ve been even more freaked out.  But a little bit a couple of times a year can’t be too bad for you, right?  And how the heck can you make red velvet cupcakes if they aren’t red?  No one would know what to think.  (Yes, the thought has occurred to me to try using beet juice or some other such natural dye.  Some day when I have loads of time I will try this…)

My compromise was to use less red food coloring than the recipe called for.  The result was more of a burgundy-colored cupcake which I found to be quite aesthetically pleasing.  And no one questioned what kind of cupcakes they were– there was just enough red to them. 

Now here is where the title subject comes in… Years ago I was doing my usual routine of watching the Saturday morning Food Network lineup and Paula Dean made red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting and to that cream cheese frosting she added melted marshmallows.  Eureka!

Paula’s recipe calls for one cup of melted marshmallows but if one cup is good two is even better, right?  The answer is yes, yes two cups of melted marshmallows in cream cheese frosting is supreme.  And to continue with my kick of substituting mascarpone cheese for cream cheese in frosting I tried that here too.  It’s to die for.  Heck, I even forgot to sift my dang cake flour before mixing so the cake from my batch of cupcakes was a little dense but the heavenly frosting more than made up for it.  No complaints whatsoever from the birthday peeps!

Red Velvet Cupcakes (adapted from Red Velvet Cake with Raspberries and Blueberries found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with muffin cups (this recipe makes about 18 cupcakes) and set aside.

Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.  Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend.  Using electronic mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.  Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Pour batter into prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when touched.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out of the tins and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.  Frost with Mascarpone Marshmallow Frosting (recipe below).

Mascarpone Marshmallow Frosting (adapted from Grandmother Paula’s Red Velvet Cake Icing recipe found at www.foodnetwork.com)

  • 1 (8-ounce) package mascarpone cheese
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 cups melted marshmallows
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

Blend mascarpone cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add marshmallows and confectioners’ sugar and blend.